Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 134

Sunday 13th May 1984

We woke up at about 8.00 and got up at 9. We went outside and played a game where we both had a stick and we had to hit the other person with the tarzie. Then we went to the mud track and played on the tarzie there.

Came back at 1.30 and had dinner, then after listening to some tapes, at 2.30 Doug went home. Then I went on Levendale and had a ride around, and when I came home I had tea. We went to Weary Valley and to Ricky’s leap, and when we came back I started to draw a Dr Who poster.

Then I went in the bath, and at 9.35 I watched That’s life. Went to bed at 10.25.

I’m surprised I woke up so early, as I won’t have slept much during the night. For sheer, headlong excitement, having a friend to stay over ranked alongside Christmas Eve and The Night Before My Birthday, and I remember lying in bed listening to Doug snoring in the very wee, small hours, wondering when the soft blanket of sleep (as opposed to the lurid yellow bedspread of wide-awakeness) would fall over me.

Given the time of year, I’m sure the first gentle shards of dawn were peeping through the Star Wars curtains before I finally dozed off.

The tarzie game was great, though… and exactly as I describe it. Yep, by 9am I was dancing around the garden with a long, knobbly stick in my hand, trying to thwack my (substantial) tarzie into Doug’s face while he did the same to me. Oddly, the other weird detail that jumps out from this day was the fact that I was rather strangely dressed. You wouldn’t think this would stick out too much in my memory (as I’ve spent much of the last 25 years rather strangely dressed) but, in 1984, I was the proud owner of two (count ’em) outdoor jackets…

1. A traditional stonewashed blue denim affair, bought from British Home Stores in Middlesbrough and usually combined with a black shirt for the full Shakin’ Stevens effect.

2. A kind of lightweight pale grey acrylic thing with a blue lining that I’ve no recollection of ever actually buying. It just seemed to materialise mysteriously in my wardrobe, beaming itself in from another dimension (presumably the Dimension Of Light, Man-Made Fibre). Here I am, wearing it in an official school photo from the summer of 1983…


This day was a warm day, but as I couldn’t decide which jacket to wear, I decided to hedge my bets and put them both on. The grey jacket went underneath, and the denim affair on top… so not only did I spend the day wandering around Yarm with a bright red face and sweat pouring down my forehead (pretty much my default state of existance these days regardless of what I’m wearing), I also had the hem of the considerably longer grey jacket sticking out from underneath the bottom of the denim, like a strange, acrylic medieval frill.  

Maybe I thought we’d have to fight some Knights Templar down the Mud Track.

Instead, we found a snotty, posh girl sitting by herself on (gasp!) Doug’s regular swing, so instead we retreated to the top of the bank where the Tarzie was (there’s a film of this location on this entry) and tried to scare her off with some advanced bullshitting.

‘Of course, I only ride a Raleigh Chopper while my £3000 Diamond Back Turbo is being repaired,’ I pontificated loudly, in a cut-glass accent only a short hop away from Little Lord Fauntleroy. ‘Yes, h’and h’it’s a shame mai Dad h’isn’t ‘ere in ‘is Rolls Royce,’ said Doug, waving his hand around with a distinctly upper class flourish.

‘Save your breath, I know it’s all bollocks,’ said the girl, rolling her eyes and stomping off towards the allotments. Result! The day then progressed as planned, until we rode home. By which time the double-jacketed approach had finally worn me down, and I took off the light grey number and tied it to the handlebars of my bike for the ride home.

Halfway across the main road outside Yarm Grammar School it fell off, and I nearly got run over trying to retrieve it.


That would have been the headline in the Evening Gazette. Complete with a picture of my solemn-faced Mum pointing disconsolately at the blood-stained jacket.

Nice to round off the day with a trip to Weary Valley as well. This riverside beauty spot three miles from Yarm is described in more detail in this diary entry (although sadly it’s a bit of a tip these days). Ricky’s Leap, though! Thereby hangs a tale… or, indeed, a tail…

Ricky was, thought you’d never know it from reading my diary, our dog. Poggy Doggy, to give him his assumed 1984 identity…


A short walk down from Weary Valley’s twinkling waterfall was a miniature cliff-edge, maybe six or seven feet of sheer sandstone rising up from the sandy banks of the River Leven. A year or so earlier, on another family visit, Poggy Doggy had decided – to our gasps of horror – to run straight off the end of it. And I swear he hovered motioneless in mid-air for a second (like Wile E Cayote in the Road Runner cartoons) before finally dropping to the soft ground below.

He was completely unhurt, but then decided that the only way to reclaim his dignity was to attempt to scrabble his way back up the sheer vertical face. He attempted to do this at least three times, on each occasional getting half-way up before sliding back down to the bottom again, leaving a long trail of deep claw-marks in the sandy face of the slope. Me and my Dad would have tried to  help, but we were too busy rolling around the floor, clutching our stomachs with painful hysterical laughter.

‘It’s the look on his face…!’ gasped my Dad, and he was dead right. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dog look so confused and yet determined at the same time.

The location became irrevocably known as ‘Ricky’s Leap’ to our family, and here’s me and my Mum sitting at the top of it, shortly after the event…


The clawmarks were still visible for years afterwards, but I had a look the other week, and they’re gone now. Although I suspect both of those bloody awful jackets are still in a bag in the loft somewhere.



  Chris Orton wrote @

That style of school photo brings back some memories. We had a bloke who came once a year, and he had the catchphrase “say sausages”, instead of “say cheese”. He was just doing his job I suppose, but I think that he was regarded as a bit of a nob. His attempts to solicit a smile never seemed to work with me though the false grin/smirk that I assumed just didn’t look natural at all. I had my first few pictures taken on my own, but when my brother was born I had to start having my picture taken with him – even when he was baby. He was a rather… chubby child, and I had him perched on my skinny, pipe-cleaner like legs for what seemed like ages.

I wonder if they still do school photos like that? They seemed to cost a fortune back in the 80’s, so I dread to think what they would want for them now.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yep, we had those photos taken every single year in the school hall! I’ve got (I think) all of mine. ALL school photographers were ‘a bit of a character’ and ours was a livewire middle-aged gent who looked a bit like Jack from On The Buses. He had a word for all of us… running the full gamut from ‘Gaw blimey, you’re ‘orrible!’ to ‘Come on, you ‘andsome devil, giz a smile…’

The grey background was no bigger than the bits of it you see in the picture, and he had a black umbrella and a light on a stick. And we’d get a week’s notice to enable us to sort out haircuts, clean clothes, bad attitudes, that kind of thing.

I can’t remember how much they cost, but you’re right – it wasn’t cheap. I think every year my Mum used to buy the ‘big’ picture in the cardboard sleeve, together with two smaller versions of the same to go over to my Gran. And the cardboard sometimes had a local emblem embossed on it… my 1981 photo has a lovely gilt rendition of Middlesbrough’s Transporter Bridge on the back.

I’ve no idea if primary schools still do photos like this, but it can’t be too hard to find out… cough.. ahem… cough… hem… hem…

  Mark Hirst wrote @

Of course we still have such photos done. Individual, class groups, family groups and teams. It is also worth pointing out that school makes a good wedge out of it as well, taking a nice percentage of the overall profits.

With an eye on this, we always have our `individual photos` done just before Christmas, to hit the lucrative `send to relatives market` and rake it in!! (Just about pays for the staff drinks bill at the Xmas do!)

On another tack, it’s interesting that the highest number of comments posted recently are in response to what can only be described as the `toilet posting`. It is revealing that in terms of developing `well rounded` members of society, schools in the eighties were definitely bog standard!

  bobfischer wrote @

Great to know, thanks for that Mr H! I do have a full Fourth Year photo taken out on the school field in June 1984, so when the time comes I’ll scan that and put it up here. You’re not on it, though… you must have been hiding in the gold-plated teachers restroom!

Yours, flushed with success…

  Fiona Tims wrote @

They let you wear your coat in the school pic?! What’s that all about?

  bobfischer wrote @

Yeah, it is strange, isn’t it? I wonder if my Mum had made me wear a posh shirt that I didn’t like, and this was my rebellious statement?

Fifteen years later, Liam Gallagher nicked my look lock, stock and barrell.

  Mark Hirst wrote @

Weird this Bob, but something just clicked in the old memory cells. Liam Gallagher might have nicked your look, but I remember watching the Bunnymen at the Town Hall and thinking then, that Ian McCulloch had borrowed extensively from the look championed by Andrew Sugden, circa Levendale 84?

  bobfischer wrote @

Yes, there was definitely a shared haircut going on there! You could easily have kept a family of starlings secure in either of those barnets.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

You might have albums by Lavatory Symposium but I can claim to have seen ACRYLIC JERKIN DEATH play live in Anaheim when they were just starting out.

  bobfischer wrote @

Blimey, the glory days. Were they still doing the full 18-minute version of ‘Lurid Yellow Bedspread’ in those days?

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Absolutely. The brain-numbing screamed refrain of ‘The crimplene frill/Makes me kill, kill, kill!’ took up a full seven of those minutes too.

  bobfischer wrote @

Just before the hosepipe solo. I’ve got chills just thinking about it.

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